One of the challenges I face in my classroom when we do whole-class readings is getting students to read in front of their peers. On occasion, I'll have a couple of "good" readers shoot their hands up to volunteer. Typically these students become my "routine" readers. I know these students can read well, but I want to help their peers gain confidence and develop their ability to read well, too.
In my previous post, I talked about how I monitor Speed when listening to my students read. While some reluctant readers rarely volunteer (or flat out refuse) to read aloud in front of their peers because they may feel like they read too slow, but this may not be a problem for others. Instead, they may not volunteer because they have problems with pronouncing words correctly. In having listened to hundreds of students stumble over difficult words, this is the next problem I want to address in my reading instruction.
Rather than put a student in an embarrassing situation in front of his/her peers, I play a few pre-recorded audio clips of former students reading. As I play these clips, I ask my students to listen for the following problems:
- Mispronouncing words.
- Stumbling on hard words with no self-correction.
- Skipping over hard words.
- Substituting words that change the meaning of the text.
After we've had a chance to listen to a few clips, we assess the reader's ability in pronouncing words correctly. We talk about what the reader did well, what didn't go well, and give a grade based on the reader's pronunciation. I then introduce our criteria for monitoring Accuracy and ask them to copy it down in their reading journals:
- Read words easily and automatically.
- Pronounce words clearly as they are written.
- Break hard words into smaller pieces.
- Practice hard words until I get them right.
- Correct words I miss and reread from the beginning of the sentence.
As I do any time I'm reading a text aloud, I display a part from the book I'm currently reading on my smartboard. I ask students to follow along as I read aloud. While I'm reading, I want them to listen for any mistakes I make in Accuracy. I'll read the text with a couple of the Problems with Accuracy from above. When I finish, I ask them to give me a grade on how I did, and I mark the places where they heard me make mistakes. We then talk about where I went wrong and what I need to do to improve. In my second read-through, I read the text with their suggested corrections and ask them to grade me again.
After modeling what I want my students to do, I let them practice in small groups. I want them to practice with a part they haven't yet read so I allot a few minutes for them to find one. Then, one person reads while the others listen. When the reader finishes, the listeners give their feedback using our Accuracy criteria along with a grade the reader deserves. The reader then writes this feedback and the grade down in his/her reading journal.
Once students have had an opportunity to practice in groups, I give them silent reading time. While they read, I walk around to each student and ask the student to read a different paragraph loud enough for only me to hear. As the student reads, I make a note of any Accuracy problems. If there aren't any, I simply say, "Sounds good" and move on to the next student.
If a student stumbles on a word, or gets to a word he/she doesn't recognize, I'll say, "Let's try that again. Sound the word out in smaller parts." If the student doesn't know how to break the word up into parts, I'll offer help. Then, I'll say, "Okay, now say the word slowly using those small parts. Yes, that's it. Now, I want you to say that word 5 times. That's it. Now, go back and re-read that sentence again." This usually solves the problem. I'll then ask the student, "How did that work for you?" And, I usually get a positive response. "I want you to use this trick each time you get to a word you don't recognize or when you aren't sure how to pronounce it. Okay?"
In this reading conference, the key here is listening for and identifying the problem(s) the student may be having with Accuracy. Sometimes, I will close my eyes as the student reads, which helps me focus on how well the student is reading. Once I've figured out what the problem is, I can offer a solution. Initially, the steps I asked the student to follow may take some getting used to so I ask that the student practice each time he/she reads. I also ask the student to make a note of this trick in his/her reading journal like this:
What to do When I Get to a Hard Word
- Break it up into smaller parts, sound it out.
- Practice saying these parts together, slowly.
- When it "sounds" right, read the word 5 times in a row.
- Then, reread the sentence from the beginning.
- If I still don't get it, ask for help.
Following up with the student is as important as showing the student how to fix the problem. I usually follow-up on our next reading day and ask the student how his/her reading is going. Then, I'll have the student read aloud and listen for whether or not the student makes any mistakes in Accuracy and whether or not the student knows how to fix the problem(s). If he/she does, I say, "Sounds good" and move on to the next student. If the student struggles, I'll say, "Remember the other day when I showed you that trick for how to fix that problem? Let's go through those steps again."
Any reader is bound to come across a word (words) he/she doesn't recognize or isn't sure how to pronounce correctly. Rather than allowing students to skip these words or blow through the mistake, I'd rather spend some time showing them how to identify Problems with Accuracy and how to fix them. This not only helps them practice an important reading skill that many good readers use everyday, it equips them with a strategy they can use, independently, when they get stuck. And hopefully helps them build their confidence as readers as well. With time and practice, I've found that my number of "routine" readers who volunteer to read aloud grows. But more importantly, the ability of my students to read words accurately continues to improve as well.
For more on What Makes Good Reading see READING ALLOWED: Making Sure the First “R” Comes First.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at firstname.lastname@example.org.